Barcelona or Real Madrid: Where will Paul Pogba go if he leaves Manchester United?
The Frenchman's relationship with Jose Mourinho has turned sour as United's season unravels
Amid Manchester United's disastrous start to the season - their worst in 29 years - has been the ongoing questions over the future of two of the club's key figures.
First, there's Jose Mourinho, who at this point, after their 3-1 defeat to West Ham United, is struggling to get his team into anything close to top gear.
Then there's their record signing, Paul Pogba, who was such an influential figure in France's World Cup-winning side during the summer, but has a fractious relationship with Mourinho which was there for all to see during a training ground altercation last week. Pogba was subbed off in the defeat to West Ham and was stripped of the vice captaincy last week after questioning the team's attacking ethos.
But should it be Pogba that moves on rather than Mourinho, which club could he end up at?
While it has been a bad week for Manchester United, it hasn't been much better for Barcelona who collected two points from a possible nine in La Liga, as they were beaten by lowly Leganes prior a 1-1 draw against Athletic Bilbao on Saturday. Lionel Messi came off the bench to help rescue a point and suggested afterwards that they are too dependent on one player.
They replaced Neymar last season with Philippe Coutinho and added Arturo Vidal to their midfield in the summer after Andres Iniesta moved to Japan. They have the likes of Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets but the Barca squad is still evolving after the Xavi-Iniesta-Busquets era of midfield domination.
Pogba has been linked most heavily with Barcelona, where the sporting director happens to be former French international Eric Abidal. A side containing Messi, Luis Suarez, Coutinho and Pogba would be a mouth-watering prospect.
The current Real side looks rather devoid of Galacticos compared to previous eras, especially since Cristiano Ronaldo moved on to Juventus in the summer. Gareth Bale remains and is backed by arguably Europe's finest engine room - Luca Modric, Casemiro and Toni Kroos. So, where would Pogba fit in? Modric, brilliant at the World Cup, is now in his 30s, but Pogba would need to be the key midfield figure wherever he goes. And this midfield should be here to stay for the rest of this season at least, bar any long-term injuries.
Another issue is that Real are reluctant to deal with Pogba's agent, Mino Raiola.
He's already had one homecoming, having returned to United, but how about a second, by returning to Juventus, the club with which he won four Serie A titles? Their sporting director Fabio Paratici was tight lipped recently when asked about the possibility of Pogba returning to Italy, saying: "As long as he remains a Manchester United player, it’s best that I don’t talk about players at other clubs."
The appeal for Pogba is obvious - Ronaldo's move to Turin has increased the spotlight on the club, on the pitch they have won seven from seven in the league and a change to the rules in the Uefa Champions League means he wouldn't be cup tied if he moved in the January transfer window.
As far as the current line-up is concerned, France teammate Blaise Matuidi marshals the midfield along with Emre Can and Miralem Pjanic. It's strong, but an in-form Pogba is a step up on Can.
There's doubts however that Juve could afford him after the big outlay on Ronaldo.
On the subject of homecomings, how about a return to his proper home? Pogba was born and raised in Paris so there's a strong connection. On the pitch he would join fellow French World Cup-winning superstar Kylian Mbappe and Brazilian Neymar in a team that should win the French league with ease - they have won eight from eight so far - but is not quite at the level of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus when it comes to the Champions League.
It is highly questionable as to whether PSG could afford Pogba's fee - expected to be in the region of £100 million (Dh479m) - having shelled out £165m on Mbappe and £200m before that on Neymar. Uefa are once again investigating the club's finances in relation to Financial Fair Play rules.
Their recent transfer dealings have included a surprise move for Stoke City's Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting.
Chelsea and Manchester City
It would be highly unlikely that Manchester United would sell Pogba to a Premier League rival, and there's no suggestion that either club are interested, but just imagine a midfield at Chelsea with him and France teammate N'Golo Kante. Or, Pogba alongside Kevin de Bruyne at City. It might work better in theory than reality, especially with a player such as Pogba who has blown hot and cold for the past couple of seasons. Though you would expect Pep Guardiola, a former midfielder himself, to get the best from him.
Updated: October 1, 2018 08:24 AM